Zedoary: A Mysterious Indian Rhizome

The plant from which zedoary is obtained is native to India, Pakistan and Indonesia but can now be found in many places. For example, it can now be found growing in Florida as well as in parts of Latin America.

Zedoary is also known as kachur and as white turmeric. It was brought to Europe in the sixth century. The name zedoary comes from the Arabic and Farsi; in those languages, it is called jadwaar or zedwar. It was a popular spice at the time of its introduction to Europe and appears to have been in use through the medieval period. There are European recipes from the 16th century that include it as a spice. However, it has since fallen from favor and is now largely unknown in the west. Its flavor has been replaced by the milder flavors of ginger and yellow turmeric.

Flavor profile of zedoary

One of the Indian names for zedoary is amb halad. Amb is the word for mango, which is one of the distinctive flavor notes that this spice offers. The other strong flavor note that it provides is like that of its relative and fellow rhizome, ginger. It has a heat similar to the heat of ginger but with an aftertaste that is more bitter, which is why ginger has become more popular in western cuisine.

Health benefits of zedoary

Zedoary is closely related to turmeric and like turmeric, it contains a number of sesquiterpenes including:

  • Germacrone
  • Furanodienone
  • Curcumenol
  • Isocurcumenol
  • Curcumenone

These are some of the compounds that enable this spice to provide a range of health benefits. Zedoary’s benefits include its ability to treat:

  • Poor digestion: In traditional Chinese Medicine, zedoary is used to aid digestion; it does this by promoting the production of digestive juices and is believed to aid the flow of bile into the digestive system. Zedoary is also used as a treatment for flatulence and colic in addition to being a treatment for certain types of ulcers. In order to prevent indigestion, it is suggested that you eat zedoary half an hour before a meal.
  • Menstrual problems: Practitioners of traditional medicine often prescribe zedoary for menstrual pain as well as for overall uterine health. It is believed to make the muscles of the uterus stronger, thus helping with childbirth.
  • Snake bite: One of zedoary’s uses is as an antivenin. It can be used to treat the bite of the Indian cobra.

Common uses of zedoary

In India, zedoary is commonly used fresh for pickling; the powdered root is sometimes used as a thickener in much the same way that arrowroot would be used. Thai cooks use zedoary fresh in salads; they cut it into thin strips and serve it with other herbs and vegetables. It is also used in various Thai chili pastes. Dried zedoary is often powdered and added to Indonesian curry powders, especially those used for flavoring seafood. In China, the powder is called kentjur and sold either as a part of a curry powder or on its own. Nigerian cooks use it as a coloring for some stews.

Zedoary essential oil is also popular for use in soaps and perfumes. In addition, it is added to some cordials and liqueurs and is an ingredient in Swedish Bitters.